Kieran is one of the small team of builders of the striking Hallat Ammar 19 September 1917 desert train ambush diorama which is currently in the Lawrence of Arabia: Shifting Sands exhibition at the National Civil War Centre.
“This is a fantastic idea for adapting a scenario. I’m one of the builders of the Hallat Ammar diorama shown on the NQM blog – see also my own, rather inconsistently maintained blog is http://gotflag.blogspot.com.2
“It’s very rewarding to see that the diorama has prompted some gaming of Lawrence scenarios – I was slightly upset to se the glass case go over the display, unfortunately we didn’t get any games in on the board before hand.”
“Keep up the good work, looking forward to reading more.” Kieran
You can see more of the finished diorama in Kieran’s photographs, including a few construction pics. Elsewhere on his occasional blog you can see the locomotive models being made (before he wrecked or blew them up!) and much more besides.
I was quite curious where Kieran’s blog name from. The short embedded clip from Eddie Izzard on Kieran’s Do You Have A Flag? website explains it. Watching it, I can’t help thinking that Eddie Izzard is so much of the same 60s / 70s Airfix generation as myself and many of us, in fact he is probably a glammed up version of Harry Pearson in Achtung Schweinhund.
A few more Lawrence links about the Hallat Ammar train ambush, rapidly approaching its centenary on 19 September 1917 / 2017
A few more interrupted railway ambush gaming scenarios inspired by this real event in the next few months.
Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN on his occasional Sidetracked blog, 21 August 1917
I like Kieran’s comment about the frustration of not having enough time to get a game in on this superb desert terrain before the glass lid went on. In my Borrowers inspired brain, maybe when the lights go dim at night at the National Civil War Centre, out come the tiny tents, the campfires, the singing on each side, the camels lie down and all is well and calm until they are back in their fighting positions by opening time, just as before. But if you look carefully enough …
Amongst the hundreds of old railway magazines I have recently been given to pass on to my railway modelling family members, I wondered if there was a special little article or two that I remember reading in the mid 1970s.
One of them was, I was sure, a Junior Modeller sort of article about WW1 using Airfix WW1 figures. I checked all the Railway Modellers first. as luck would have it, I eventually found it, after flicking through thousands of pages.
I remember this April 1976 article very well as a child from the railway magazines that were around in our house. The Junior Modeller pages were about as much as I could understand of these technical grown-up magazines.
What I liked about this article was that the Airfix figures and models were ones that I recognised and owned. I could perhaps do something similar?
It was written by a young person as well, a 15 year old called Julian Chambers.
I hope somewhere that a mid 50-something Julian Chambers still has this gem of a 009 little layout tucked away. Interesting to read about a planned possible extension through the quarry tunnel. I wonder if this ever happened.
The text mentions of Bellona houses and Jouef trains didn’t mean much to me at the time – what was 009 anyway? As it was the photographs that I remember best, I have edited the pages to produce some close ups of the photographs by Roy Chambers.
The difference between a model railway or diorama piece like this and the wargamer’s approach is that these Airfix figures and tank are fixed or “pinned down” (in the old, entomological rather than gaming sense).
I clearly recall these many of these photographs 30 to 40 years later, so often did I pore over them. (Star Wars still hadn’t happened by then).
I even wonder if the way I sketch out scenario maps for gaming is influenced by this terrific little map that I looked at so often. It linked so well with the photos.
Julian Chambers mentioned an interesting little colour illustrated Blandford style book Railways and War before 1918 by Denis Bishop and W.J.K. Davies, 1972. Not sure if I ever found this amongst the Blandford Uniform hardback colour books in the local library but I now have this on order (lots of them still out there affordable second hand) along with the sequel Railways and War Since 1917: featuring World War II (in Colour) by Denis Bishop and W.J.K. Davies, 1975.
So thanks Julian Chambers for the inspiration still many years later, Roy Chambers for those photos and Railway Modeller with its Junior Modeller page (does it still have this?). You made a small boy happy and a grown-up small boy even happier still to rediscover that this was just as good as he remembered!
Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, Sidetracked blog, 15 August 2017
Apples to Pears look like a fun company for unusual postable gifts in a tin. I was lucky enough to find my Train in a TIN in a charity shop (thrift or op shop) for about £4 , an unwanted gift but in full working order, even the AA battery still charged.
“We know you love gifts that move and catch attention which is why our original Train Set in a Tin continues to be a firm favourite.
This autumn sees the launch of a new design called “The Great Railway Express”. Presented in the new “big” Gift in a Tin size, the product is packed with a classic green train, carriages, plus extra track and accessories …” Available end of August 2017, Apples to Pears trade website 2017
Train in a TIN usually sells for about £10 to £12 and is not to be confused with other “Gifts in A Tin” companies like the variations on the “Tank in a TIN and not enough toy soldiers” set http://www.theoriginalgift.co.uk/ogc/tank-in-a-tin and other suppliers, the battery powered tank being “a tiny replica of the American M41 Walker Bulldog light tank, in operation from 1953 to the present day”.
I bought this one from hobby craft and modelling mail order store Fred Aldous.
I like the vintage or retro look of the packaging, the railwayana look of the station board titles and vintage looking font. This is continued in the small details such as the railway tickets.
“Relive the Great Era of Passenger and Goods Rail Conveyance” – tickets to travel to the zoo – and all for well under a tenner!
The way click a track works there are only limited flexible options for the layout.
The manual track point switch is robust and simple.
Two of the larger ‘train in a box’ sets would give you point circles at either end, three a point midway along etc.
What happens if you combine tracks from the tin and the box sets?
The battery train and rolling stock have an engaging waddle and easy coupling. Fresh batteries make the engine rather too enthusiastic and coltish at times.
I unscrewed and added a small stone to inside the caboose (painted black, not red) to add some weight at the back. The coal tender in the Train in a Box set has already a chunky addition of bolt or washer inside to add weight and stability.
Whilst unscrewing the rest of the rolling stock out of curiousity to see where a liitle weight could be added, I noticed some interesting tinkering possibilities.
Taking the engines apart suggests that you could adapt the engine to something more British or European. With its body off, the engine looks very functional and narrow gauge.
Train in a TIN comes with simple building instructions and some handy operating tips.
More deconstructed trains
The narrow gauge look to the deconstructed wagons reminded me of another cheap plastic toy, an old Greendale Rocket loco, spotted as the cover toy on the front of a Children’s BBC Postman Pat comic. It is a child’s wheeled push-along toy train that fortuitously fits the track (albeit with wheels astride or outside the track).
Two ‘train in a TIN’ and ‘train in a box’ sets compared
Track layouts played around with.
Rolling stock deconstructed leading to
a complete sidetracked tangent to Postman Pat and Pound Store Plastics.
I am busy working on an unusual new history inspired, railway linked Man of TIN / Sidetracked gaming scenario c. 1840s over the next week or two. All requiring a bit of research, some scrounging around for suitable figures, some quick painting and a simple new terrain on the 192 Hexes of Joy game board.
I ran out of Heroscape desert hexes, and the rest of my household judged the board not quite deserty enough and a little too much green showing.
The sand pit source of sand was flooded – too long to dry, a trial Woodland Scenics bag of desert grit was nowhere to be found. Instead a quick trial repaint of some green and grey hexes with a desert colour sort of worked.
I had no desert sand Revell Aquacolor Acyrlic to hand, so mixed their Matt Flesh with a little Matt Mud Brown and Gloss White to produce a pinky desert hue. Lots of deserts have a rusty orange to pink palette, as do desert animals like lizards and even the famous “Pinkies” or SAS “Pink Panther” desert camouflaged armed Land Rovers. http://www.eliteukforces.info/special-air-service/mobility-troop/sas-land-rover/
A quick PVA glue sand mix on a trial desert pinkie hex did not work well, so I quickly wiped this off.
some Astroturf marshy grass strips, brown railway moss and white shell gravel (salvaged from a failed Triops Sea Monkeys set) all added more desertness.
The heliograph message prompted a rescue party of reinforcements, 2d6 dice rolls determining when they would be arriving – Turn 11.
After the first few volleys of ineffective rifle fire on both sides, British and Indian troops crossed the bridge to pitch in with bayonets in melee around the log blocked track.
The presence of the German horsemen, along the few supplies and barrels scattered around the hut and amongst their hidden tent created the possibility (overlooked during the rapid set up of this scenario) that they could be engineers, ready to blow the bridge and derail the train. They were probably responsible for the blocking of the line with any available logs or rubble in order to halt and capture the train.
Very rapidly, Allied rifle fire and repeated melee across the railroad tracks cleared the remaining German and Turkish troops.
The last two Askaris rolled d6 for their next action and wisely retreated along the stream bank off the board to safety.
I also discovered during the game a novel use for the 2cm gap along the board edge. This little Valhalla strip is good for neatly storing casualties off the board, out of sight and out of the way.
Seasoned railway modellers might not be inspired by seeing trains blown up or derailed.
However I spotted an interesting photo on the Not Quite Mechanised website by Chris Kemp of a detailed desert train in a diorama model at the ‘Shifting Sands: Lawrence of Arabia’ exhibition at Newark’s National Civil War Centre.
With my Train In a Tin, a bit of sand, some Tiger.com cocktail stick palm trees, a scattering of desert hexes on my Heroscape hex board and the old OO / HO Airfix Bedouin Warriors and / or French Foreign Legion, this could be an interesting desert scenario variation of my recent ACW Battle of Pine Ridge River.
Interesting. Thanks Chris Kemp on the NQM Not Quite Mechanised website for another interesting blogpost that sparks some more gaming scenario ideas
Adding to the Wild West movie inspired T.E. Lawrence myth, David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia 1962 film features an exploding desert train on the Hejaz Railway. (Clips available on YouTube). 1962 – there was a year, Lawrence of Arabia in the cinema, Donald Featherstone’s War Games published …
Skim reading this Great Arab Revolt Project GARP website
This article features the following interesting perspective:
“To understand why the rail line was never permanently closed by military action we need to know something of railway features. Once built they are: easy to maintain, environmentally friendly, difficult to destroy, easily repaired, seldom interrupted through accident, produce very little “road-kill”, require small manpower to operate, are inexpensive to maintain after the original capital expenditure and, rolling stock (the engines and carriages) is generally plentiful.
Railways can move large tonnages and civil or military passenger numbers over vast distances relatively quickly, including the return of casualties to hospital facilities. Although used with success earlier, the American Civil War 1861-65 proved the strategic and tactical use of railways.
Note, damaging or destroying one train has not destroyed a rail network.”
From The Hejaz Railway, GARP website article by Neil Dearberg, 2010
Running steam locomotives with their need for wateringpoints through a desert is a considerable challenge, one that would have affected building parts of the Wild West railways too.
The GARP gallery also features ruined and intact station buildings.
A Bit of Imagi-Native Distance: The Brontes do Lawrence of Arabia!
Without wishing to trivialise real past events and politics in the Middle East over recent years and the past century, this is all fascinating stuff for the desert Imagi-Nation games scenario from the Brontes onwards to a steampunked early train Stevenson’s Rocket kit from Dapol / Airfix. Hmm ..
The Brontes travelled on trains and featured Byronic Victorian desert nations loosely based on those Africa and Arabia. I’m sure that the Bronte sisters and brother Branwell would have found Lawrence of Arabia a fascinating and emotionally complex heroic figure for their novels.
“From June 1836 to September / autumn 1836, Northangerland was in control of the new French style Provisional Government of the Grand Republican Union (formerly the Verdopolitan Union). He has direct control over Angria where his allies (Ashantees,French and Bedouin forces) wreak a reign of terror. The Arab troops are led by Lord Jordon, in Byronic ‘Turkish’ dress and known as Sheik Medina.” (From my Charlotte Bronte as Gamer post Man of TIN blog)
Zamorna’s European enemy Lord Jordan (in his Arabian guise of Sheik Medina) is the Byronic head of an Arabian army invading, with a combined African, French and Scottish force, the Bronte Imagi-Nation of Angria. He is defeated and killed at the ‘Battle Of Leyden’ in Angria in the Bronte Year of 1837.
Definitely a possibility of being Sidetracked by that one …
Exploring the overlap between model railways and tabletop figure gaming
Recently I have built a small railway line onto my games board, shown on my Man of TIN blog, to add another level of interest to gaming scenarios.
I come from a family of ‘off and on’ railway modellers who remember the last days of steam and whose projects are fortunately often never quite completed before another layout idea, period or scale takes over.
As I grew up on a pocket money and paper round budget, this was an excellent source for scrounging materials from flock and paint to ballast and trees etc from discarded layouts or projects, all to the benefit of my Airfix and Peter Laing figures.
I admire their technical skill with wiring and signalling, scenery making and building construction but found the static nature of the scenes a little off putting.
Why were the railway people figures all stuck down? How did they move? How did they tactically manoeuvre and fight each other? The static nature of the storylines did not appeal to me, unlike the joy of discovering Donald Featherstone’s 1962 book War Games in my 1970s public library. This was to be my thing in the family, my ongoing interest and “go to” or “go back to” thing.
Although I do not talk about my hobby of “the tiny men” at work, as it is nice to have a separate life and mental bolthole, the only other modellers I currently know socially or through work are model railway enthusiasts. We occasionally chat, in the bemused presence of other ‘more normal’ people, about the models they are making.
These railway modellers too seem to shift from scale to scale, from period and country, much in the same way that I flit across scales and periods from 15mm Peter Laings to repairing bashed 54mm lead soldiers to home casting, pound store plastics, garden games and Imagi-Nations.
These modelling friends know that I come from a railway modelling family, had the same Airfix upbringing as many of my late 1960s / 1970s generation and have an interest in many aspects of history and vintage toys including toy soldiers.
This puts me on their wavelength and someone who gets what they are on about. One day I’m sure they hope that I will finally be converted to the pure hobby, the true faith and the one true scale … if I knew what that scale was.
To my precision craftsman model railway colleagues I am a bit fuzzy about matching scale and gauge, they often have to patiently explain the differences and conversions over and over again. What, I ask, is the equivalent railway gauge for Airfix 1:32 or 54mm figures? What is the nearest gauge for 15mm figures? Tell me again, What is the difference between HO and OO?
For instance, I have shown some of my homecast Prince August figures in local arts and craft events, mainly (or manly?) so that there was an element of ‘man craft’ or ‘boy craft’ at these largely female events. The next step of admitting to “playing with toy soldiers” just hasn’t come out in conversation yet.
Hidden amongst wide-ranging history conversations, we also chat about improvising board games and scrapmodelling or hobby crafting with family members to while away a rainy day. My work colleagues are well used to our scrap modeller’s scrounging approach to any waste materials left lying around ready for the skip or bin. “Does anybody want this anymore?” is a frequent question, before we upcycle or recycle scrap, having asked this sort of collective permission of course.
There seems to be quite an interesting overlap between the two areas of tabletop figure gaming in its broadest sense and model railroads or railway modelling as it is variously called.
Quite frequently PECO model railway backdrops are useful atmospheric backgrounds for photographing figures up close or when screening off the house when photographing a game in progress. http://www.peco-uk.com
Model railroad buildings and terrain features like trees are a good source of gaming materials. Occasionally railroad figures make excellent period civilians, something quite scarce amongst many games manufacturers. Thankfully old series like the Airfix railway figures, accessories and buildings are still available through Dapol.
One of my railway modelling colleagues, who is downsizing his collection, has recently passed me box-loads of railway modelling magazines from the 1960s onwards to pass on to my railway modelling enthusiast family members.
Before I parcel these up and post them on, I have been flicking through looking for anything that is of interest to wargames or tabletop gaming.
Mostly I was looking for one or two ‘Junior Modeller’ type pages that I remember reading in the 1970s, which I have now found. I will blog post these in due course.
Other interesting modelling tips, scenarios or snippets of history that may be of interest to future games will also be posted here to share.
Blog Work in progress , Mark, Man of TIN, 28 July 2017